How disruptive events affect utilities’ operations?

Any crisis, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, can expose how vulnerable a company’s operations can be when facing difficult situations. With no time to prepare for these difficult times, decision-makers have found themselves reflecting on how disrupting events can affect daily operations.

When highly disruptive events happen on a global scale, they can have a significant effect on people’s routines and companies’ operations. Organizations, such as service providers, need to mitigate emerging risks that may prevent the business from running normally.

This does not only apply to COVID-19 but is extensible to several extreme scenarios that, although unlikely, are plausible. What can be done to face terrorist attacks or natural disasters that may damage infrastructure? How can a company maintain cash flow during an inevitable economic downturn hitting customers and businesses equally? How can organizations keep productivity levels up with a decreased workforce due to isolation? These questions have become a top strategic concern for service providers and every business alike to assess the impact of future possible calamities.

Utility companies should implement financial measures to support their customers during these difficult situations. However, these measures raise a critical problem: how can utilities assure revenue while having lenient payment deadlines? These organizations need to keep operations efficient by assigning field crews to reconnect customers to guarantee the service supply while also complying with health measures to prevent social contact.

In these circumstances, technology becomes crucial to reduce the risks associated with these procedures. It helps service providers implement helpful initiatives while keeping their accountancy and internal processes organized. Therefore, their technology must support four main parties involved in the business:

  1. The customers: Utilities can support customers by granting them flexible payment alternatives and securing supply while delivering an exceptional digital experience. Utilities should introduce new communication channels to keep customers engaged and informed.
  2. The company staff: Utilities should enable home office modalities and adjust service procedures through flexible workflows, keeping customer-facing processes up and running with the help of a single 360° view of transactions and interactions. Additionally, companies should provide different contact channels and service tools to help the staff when working remotely.
  3. The field crews and contractors: By adjusting field service processes and providing safety procedures and traceability to perform on-site activities, utilities can ensure the protection of their field crews and contractors.
  4. The organization: By creating customer-centric collection plans and managing accounts receivable, payment agreements, and other mechanisms, utility companies can normalize revenue streams and ensure financial stability.

However, the implementation of these initiatives leads to several problems for service providers. Modifications and synchronizations need to be made on multiple systems, interfaces need to be updated to create cohesive user experiences, several vendors need to be coordinated to orchestrate their modularized functionalities and integrations need to be tested properly before the go-live. All these difficulties add fuel to an already distressing situation and increase efforts and costs exponentially.

These obstacles can be overcome with a flexible holistic CIS capable of supporting operations in the customer domain entirely. The solution must have an expanded scope that includes Customer Self Service (CSS), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Mobile Workforce Management (MWM) and Meter Data Management (MDM) features, delivered on-premise or in a cloud environment. Through the implementation of technology with these characteristics, service providers can continue to operate regardless of how challenging the business scenarios are while reducing the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). This will allow them to shift the focus from unprofitable system integration investments to investments in functional enhancements.

The situation surrounding COVID-19 demonstrates that no matter how much we plan, it is inevitable to predict these types of crises. However, utilities must take proactive measures to support their key operational processes, so that they can continue to perform successfully throughout these times and keep doing so in the long run.

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